Friday, November 26, 2010

Finding a voice...

Hmm... let's see where we go with this...

I get very frustrated frequently because I can't really speak out very well. The worst moments for me are when there are conflicts; I literally lose my 'voice'.

I think over the years, I've learnt that when I lose my temper and say things I shouldn't, I'll have to go back and apologize to that person for those words. Because of that, I prefer not to speak the words at all, so I won't have to apologize! (not so noble a reason, eh? ;> Now you guys know!)

Besides, I hate hurting people. No matter how much you hurt me, let me not hurt you!

Yesterday, I really enjoyed sharing with Jermaine on Facebook. We were sharing our dreams of helping kids to speak - and it is so rare for me to meet someone with the same dream!

The kids we are working with will have different reasons for not speaking, but our goal is the same... to help them find their 'voice'.

For me, not a vocal voice; I want to help my kids find another way of 'speaking', if speaking is too difficult. Because I truly understand that the vocal voice, especially in times of stress, can't 'come out'. So over the years, I've picked up sign language, explored dance, sand art, play therapy and anatomical dolls... any 'tools' that could be used to help my kids communicate.

Jermaine wants to help kids find their real, actual, vocal voice. :> I find that so beautiful, as kids who struggle with mutism really need someone 'on their side' to encourage them to use their voice.

Where do voices go? And why is it so difficult to speak sometimes?

Years back, I watched the film adaptation of Amy Tan's book 'The Joy Luck Club'. One part of the movie was so poignant, I remember it to today. It was the part where a little girl was standing next to her mother's dead body. Her mother had chosen to commit suicide by eating opium to get away from her miserable life as fourth wife to her rapist husband.

She had chosen to die, her daughter believed, so that her own spirit would merge with her daughter's, and give her the strength to speak out for herself. And the daughter stood next to her dead mother's body and said, "Mama, can you see me? I understand now. And I am no longer afraid."

The little girl turned and screamed at her father, "You must atone for what you have done, because all debts must be paid by the New Year!" Quickly, her father went to the altar, lit joss sticks and offered prayers to the spirit of the girl's dead mother. He vowed that the dead mother's daughter would be treated as if she was the child of his first wife.

And the words I never forgot resonated in the background... "And on that day... I learnt to shout."

Why did those words have such an impact as to stay with me all these years? It is because they were shocking to me.

Society trains us that a good girl, and especially a good Chinese girl, does not shout, yell, argue etc. etc. Cry if you will, but swallow your tears, and remember that bitterness is the lot of a woman. Confronting, and demanding change, is 'unwomanly'.

Strong in my memory are the first times I lost 'my voice'.

The first time I psychologically lost my voice, is when I tried to tell a friend about something that had happened to me as a child. I was talking and suddenly... no sound came out. I was puzzled, and tried to speak again. No... my voice had gone! My friend asked a question instead, as she saw that I couldn't speak, and I nodded in reply. Psycho-somatic, I'm sure, but thereafter I understood that there are moments when it is possible to 'lose your voice'.

The next memory is when I truly lost my voice for a physical reason :>. My voice had been going in and out as I struggled with a bad cold. And then at one point, at my sister's graduation from ACCA, it just disappeared altogether! I panicked as this was the first time I could not utter a sound, only whispers, no matter how hard I 'shouted'.

The doctor calmly inspected my throat and told me it had swollen shut over my vocal chords. After a few days (during which I tried REALLY hard to speak!), my throat healed and I could speak again. But ever since then, I've been plagued with throat infections of every kind causing me to 'lose my voice' intermittently.

But the struggle I have is the voice to be heard. I know that people read the things I write, follow certain examples in behavior... but nobody tells me they 'heard' me. And in a team situation especially, I sometimes feel as if I'm back to my days of illness when no sound comes out!

I don't know how to change this. But maybe, the change will come as I help children to find their voice? And yet, I have always wondered - if I can't find my own voice, how can I help kids find theirs?

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